• Sara Tucker

Attitude Adjustment

“I realized I needed to do something different if I was going to survive the mental part of hiking.”

I woke up this morning feeling really discouraged. How could I keep going with all of these blowdowns? The evening before had been particularly bad, and I was not looking forward to another day of it. Then it struck me that I needed an attitude adjustment.

I recognized that I was tired. I had done a big climb up and down. I had walked on snow, hiked in unusually high 90-degree temperatures, crossed a number of rivers, nursed a foot and ankle sore from twisting it when I fell through a snow bridge in Glacier. I was going through what the rangers here are calling the worst blowdowns in their recorded history. I had lost another tramily and was feeling blue. I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag and do another day.

I realized I needed to do something different if I was going to survive the mental part of hiking.

I reminded myself that I had enough food to slow down. I did not have to push it, even though it meant losing yet more friends. I had to focus on taking care of myself and listening to what my body was saying.

I decided I would aim for only ten miles, rather than my usual fifteen. I decided not to rush right out by 6 a.m. Instead, I let myself pack leisurely and eat whatever I wanted to eat. Even though I had eaten the same granola day after day when I was at home, I was finding I just could not gag it down out here on the trail. So instead I ate my cookies for breakfast. They went down a lot easier. Then I packed up at a poky pace, deciding to embrace the blowdowns I knew were ahead of me on the trail.

By deciding I did not care how far I got, I could pick my way up, around and under the fallen trees without resenting them. I took my time going over the blowdowns, noticing how my body had to pivot and contort in order to get over something that was up to my armpits. I took photos. I wrote a blog in my head about the art of crossing blowdowns. I let it be okay when it took more than five minutes to get through one tangled mess. I reminded myself that I was doing a pretty good when I was able to crawl under a blowdown and rise from a sitting position with a 35-pound pack on my back. I didn’t enjoy it all, and I felt old, but I didn’t hate it either. I just let it be.

I tried not to look too far ahead. I noticed the flowers around me and took time to smell the orchids I felt lucky to see blooming. I stopped whenever I wanted to, without the usual push to get in that extra mile. I made a game out of counting the blowdowns. When I reached three hundred somewhere just past my third hour of trail i stopped counting. I was getting tired, so I thought about where I might stop for the night. When the terrain is completely covered with fallen trees it can be difficult to find a place to pitch a tent.

I stopped early and washed my body in a lovely stream. The water was snowmelt, and I let myself scream as I immersed in the fridgid water for a very brief second. I rinsed off my smelly clothes and stretched my sore muscles.

I tried to remember my enjoyable day when I met other hikers who had come twice as far as I had. I let it be okay that I felt too tired to write, even though I had had such a short day. I fell asleep by 6 p.m.

The next morning, when I woke up, I was ready to do it all again. I even cheered each time I reached a blowdown.

I wasn’t able to do anything about hiking in the Bob in what the rangers are callling the worst blowdown year on record. But I made it a lot more bearable by tweaking my attitude.


Mary Anderson is writing a book about hiking the Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Working title: Becoming Mary Badass. She is now out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, where she wrote this post, and crossing the Scapegoat Wilderness on her way to Helena, Montana. She reports that she is making good time.

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